Almost four months after securing the city of Pittsburgh their third Stanley Cup championship, the Penguins, along with the help of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the University of Pittsburgh, helped deliver the city another title in 2009: ‘Best Sports City’ courtesy of Sporting News.
Pittsburgh beat out another Pennsylvania city, Philadelphia, which finished second, and last year’s champion, Boston, which came in third, to capture the top spot in the magazine’s 16th annual poll.
“This was a pretty easy one for us this year given the championship won with the Stanley Cup and the Super Bowl, and given the rabid nature of this market,” said Sporting News’ publisher Ed Baker, in town to present the accompanying glass trophy to Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
Results of the “Best Sports Cities” poll and the accompanying spread on Pittsburgh can be found in this week’s edition of Sporting News. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are featured on the cover.
Baker and Mayor Ravenstahl were joined Wednesday morning at the mayor’s office in the City-County building by representatives from both the Penguins’ and Steelers’ organizations.
Along with the trophy, Baker also presented Mayor Ravenstahl with the gold tie he was wearing, something that has become a tradition when presenting the new No. 1 sports city.
“Be prepared some of these guys might ask you how much it cost,” Ravenstahl joked upon accepting the tie.
Playing along, Baker noted, “We bought the tie. It’s a gift and it is under 100 dollars. It is all good.”
Mayor Ravenstahl then opened his acceptance speech by wondering why this is Pittsburgh’s first time gathering this award.
“It is an honor to accept this on behalf of the sports fans of Pittsburgh. My question is, ‘I don’t know how we don’t win this every year.’ This is a great town. I think winning cures all and I think that is the major reason we are here today, because of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Selection for Sporting News’ best sports city is not as easy as some would believe. Baker noted during his opening that the champion comes from criteria which include a little math, a little science and some subjectivity.
Included in the criteria are number of sports franchises, attendance at games, percentage of seats filled and playoff teams. Baker said after the press conference that Pittsburgh starts every year at a disadvantage due to not having a professional basketball team.
Along with winning two championships in 2009, Baker said it was the great fans that support these successful franchises that really put Pittsburgh over the top in 2009.
“It continues to amaze me how I can show up at an arena and see so much gold at an opposing facility no matter where we go. It is not the case with every (city) in this country. I think it is a real testament to the long-standing nature of the Pittsburgh fans.”
Crosby also credited fans for the award when he was asked bout the subject following Wednesday’s pre-game skate at Mellon Arena.
“You see the amount of support for the teams,” Crosby said. “They deserve (this award) not only because we won, but because of the support they show and how great of a sports town it is. It’s a great situation when a couple of teams win championships but at the same time, they’ve earned that right through their support. Their attitude towards sports itself represents what it is to be a sports fan.
Mayor Ravenstahl believes the great job local teams such as the Penguins do reaching out to their fans is why the teams are so beloved.
“It’s great how the players are with the fans and how they interact with the fans regularly. I think that is unique, and it allows the fans to relate to the players and the teams.”
Penguins’ representative Tom McMillan also took time to thank the fans for helping gather this honor.
“Thank you to the fans,” McMillan said. “This really is an award for the fans and for the city. We have all known this is a great sports town.”
McMillan also talked about what players such as Crosby and Roethlisberger mean to Pittsburgh.
“Sidney and Ben are a great reflection of what this city is all about. They represent the city well.”
Mayor Ravenstahl called the two new “faces of the teams” when comparing their cover shot with the 1979 Sports Illustrated cover of the Pirates Willie Stargell and the Steelers Terry Bradshaw.
McMillan noted that he already has plans for his edition of Sporting News.
“I am of the age where I did have that cover of Bradshaw and Stargell, so it’s going to be nice to put this one side-by-side. I have had to keep this a secret for a month-and-a-half, so I already have a place on my wall for this.”
In talking about what it’s like to go to other towns and talk to people there, Mayor Ravenstahl said the recent success of the Penguins has made them an immediate talking point.
“The Penguins’ brand is certainly growing (across the country), which is great for Pittsburgh. (Other cities) identify with that. When you go to other towns, one of the first things they refer to is your sports teams. That is a good thing because (our teams) represent such a good image.”
Speaking of images, there is one Mayor Ravenstahl would like to replicate in 2010.
“Hopefully we are back here next year at the same time.”